Updated patio furniture sets the stage for summer fun


Updated patio furniture sets the stage for summer fun
By Nancy Baldwin, Special Contributor

Outdoor living has come into its own.  Outdoor kitchens and living areas equipped with fireplaces and televisions have changed the way families relax and entertain.

"It's about a place to come home to at the end of the day. People want to be social. They want places where they can dine with family and friends," says Laura Davis, interior designer and architect at HPD Architecture LLC, Dallas.

Following indoor trends

Open-air spaces increasingly are being used year-round, becoming extensions of indoor living space. As a result, style trends for veranda furniture mirror those of interior decor, creating a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor.

"The outdoor trends follow the indoor trends. When a homeowner looks outside, they want to see the same style and colors as they used indoors," says Teresa Scott, outdoor living consultant at Sunnyland Furniture in Dallas.

Nowhere is the crossover look more important than in seating where contemporary style and color palette emphasize the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.

"We're seeing that outdoor furniture tends to go more contemporary, almost Scandinavian, angular and larger forms. It's trending away from the cool grays toward warmer grays, greige and beige," Davis says.

The interior designer notes accent colors for pillows and accessories are bright, adding pops of vibrancy.

"We're definitely seeing blues. Here in Texas we definitely want anything that can remind us of water. There are also light greens and pops of coral and pink grapefruit," Davis says.

Comfortable seating is important

Deep cushioning in chairs, sofas and sectionals offers a relaxed environment for groups clustered around a fire pit or cocktail table. "They're interested in lounge furniture. It's sofa and chair sets. A lot of people are watching television outside, and they want to be comfortable and lean back. They prefer tall back club chairs," Scott says.

Aluminum seating leads the way in popularity. Silhouettes make a statement with clean lines and wide frames. "People want to see furniture that has a presence. We're seeing transitional and contemporary pieces," Davis says.

Wicker is back

All-weather, high-density polyethylene wicker is gaining ground as styles and colors become more versatile. Gone are slim frames and weaves reminiscent of the 1960s. Open weaves and braiding with thicker strands typify today's weave creations. Though black and brown finishes are always popular, multistep finishes reflect the desire to bring the indoors outside.

"Wicker is growing. New weaves and frames are wider. They're moving from dark wicker to gray and driftwood," says Scott.

Today's frames and fabrics are durable and weather-resistant. Even in the heat of Dallas summer, most outdoor furniture is safe from fading, rain and wind.

"Aluminum has a powder coated finish. Wovens have UV-inhibitors. Sunbrella fabrics are waterproof," says Scott.

Dining trends changing

Trends in outdoor dining also reflect what is current for today's lifestyle. The popularity of outdoor kitchens and living areas grouped around fire pits has influenced where families gather to eat.

"The trend has gone away from dining sets. People sit around a fire pit. Think about it, you eat dinner for such a short period of time," Scott says.

Davis notes traditional dining sets are most often used by homeowners who entertain large groups of family or friends, or who have larger outdoor living areas. These homeowners are prepared to seat various-sized groups of guests in a comfortable fashion.

"They have a set that seats at least six or eight. They like it to be flexible," Davis says.

While round tables work well for smaller areas, rectangular tables best suit larger spaces. Dining sets also feature deep-seated, cushioned chairs, although sling chairs have long been prevalent.

Mixing it up

Although a merging of indoor and outdoor styles creates synergy, it need not lead to a sea of sameness. Furniture of mixed materials adds visual contrast. Woven chairs can be placed around an aluminum cocktail table or stone fire pit.

"It's fun to mix it up. It's a natural extension of what we see in the architecture and design world," says Davis.

Questions to ask before you buy

Here are tips from Davis and Scott to make the buying decision easier.

Davis recommends homeowners consider the size and use of their outdoor space.

* How much space is available?

* Will the furniture occupy a single large area or separate smaller areas?

* How will the outdoor space be used?

* How many people will be entertained in the space?

* Will children be using the outdoor area?

* Is the space covered or open to the elements?

* What is the budget for outdoor furniture?

* How long will they expect to use it?

* Will the furniture need to last 18 months or 18 years?

Keeping it clean

Although today's outdoor furniture needs little care, Scott offers these tips to keep it clean.

* Remove mildew quickly.

* Hose down frames and cushions with soap and water once or twice a season.

* Between cleaning, use a cloth to remove dust.

* Cover furniture as needed to prevent heavy pollen or squirrel damage.

Nancy Baldwin is a Plano freelance writer.

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